Know your worth

Five tips for scoring a pay raise

Q: I recently discovered that the person who held my position prior to me was paid substantially more, although I’ve taken on many more responsibilities. How do I approach my supervisor for a raise?

A: Negotiating compensation can be a daunting task, particularly for women. In a study of Carnegie Mellon University graduates, researcher Linda Babcock found that while 57% of men graduating with a masters degree said that they negotiated their salaries when offered a new position, only 7% of women graduating with a masters degree did the same. Those who did found the payoff worth the risk: The recent grads who negotiated received, on average, 7.4% more than their initial offers. 

So, what steps can you take to ensure your salary matches the value you bring to your position? Here are some tips.


1. KNOW YOUR WORTH. Learn what the pay range is for your role. Do the research. Rely on concrete data — not heresay — and make sure the information is for your specific position, as salaries can vary in departments based on responsibilities.  

If you feel comfortable doing so, ask your human resources (HR) department for your role’s salary range. If asking HR isn’t an option, start with an internet search for salary guides listed by positions. Take note: Many of these guides are based on national salaries and have ranges that are higher than those seen in Minnesota.  

Next, reach out to former colleagues who held similar roles and ask them what a typical pay range was for your position. If you’re asking colleagues at your company, be mindful of your company’s policy on discussing salaries. Recruiters are also excellent sources of information. Find one who specializes in your area.  

2. ANALYZE DATA POINTS. Consider the many factors that influence salaries. 

  • Location: Are you working in the cities, the suburbs or greater Minnesota? The farther you get away from the cities, the lower the salary range. 
  • Industry: Is your area of work growing or shrinking? If you’re working in a growing industry, your role will command a more substantial salary than in an industry that is shedding jobs. 
  • Perks: Does your job offer perks like employee discounts, flexible schedules and generous paid time off? Companies that can’t afford to pay the high end of salaries compensate with other perks. 
  • Health care: Is your company offering a health insurance package? Insurance is factored in as part of compensation.

3. LAYER IN YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS. You could be a manager and desire a higher salary, but are you performing at a manager level? Remove your ego, reflect and think about your contributions. Are you doing what is expected of your job title? You may find that you are doing more, or less, than what your company requires from your current position.

How are you performing in the role? Solicit honest feedback about your job performance from others you work with for a proper perspective. Adjust your salary expectations accordingly. 

4. TALK WITH YOUR MANAGER. Before demanding a raise, frame the conversation and be clear on what you want, when you want it and, most importantly, why you deserve it. 

The way you ask also makes a difference. Take the opportunity to have a discussion with your manager about your value to the company. Approach the conversation from a logical, not an emotional, perspective. Share your research and how you think your contributions impact the business. If they don’t see it the same way, you are not in a position to ask for anything more. You need to work with them to either understand your contributions or pivot so you are meeting their expectations. If they do agree with your assessment, now is the time to state what you want. 

Timing is everything. Be aware of your company’s financial position. If sales are dropping and rumors of layoffs are pending, it is probably not the time to negotiate a pay increase. 

Some companies only make salary adjustments during annual performance reviews. That doesn’t mean you have to, or even should, wait until then to have discussions. You do need to set your expectations that you have to work within set timelines. 

5. HELP YOUR MANAGER. If you and your manager agree that you deserve more compensation but your pay is off by $10,000, you aren’t likely to receive your increase all at once. Suggest a plan that would get you to an appropriate level over a period of time or an alternative compensation to bridge the difference. Can they offer you more PTO or a bonus? Can you do an increase at review time and mid-year? Perhaps it is time for you to take on more responsibilities so they can promote you, allowing them to provide a more significant increase. Recognize they have budgets they have to work within, and help them help you. 

If they can’t or won’t do anything, it may be time to look for a new opportunity. The good news is that you’ve done your research and will be prepared to negotiate a salary at a new company. 

If you’re a manager with an employee asking for a raise, ask them to go through this exercise. Factor in the risk to the business if they decide to leave and then work with them to map out a plan to get them to where they deserve to be that will also keep them engaged and motivated. 


Want to know the average salary in your market for your position? Here are some online resources to review. (Please note: Salaries also vary based on industry, location and size of company.)  



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